Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Esse, Melina. “Donizetti’s Gothic Resurrections.” 19th-Century Music 33 (Fall 2009): 81-109.

Donizetti’s turn toward gothic opera subjects in the late 1830s included a spate of self-borrowing, a compositional practice that resembles gothic concepts of corporeality and reanimation of the dead. Two operas from 1838, Maria de Rudenz and Gabriella di Vergy, exemplify this gothic attitude as both plots deal with the hidden or supernatural forces that animate our bodies. In the finale of Maria de Rudenz, after being stabbed, the title character appears to her rival as (he assumes) a ghost, accompanied by eerie musical signifiers of the supernatural. As she reveals herself to be alive and exacts her revenge, Donezetti uses the unusual technique of rewriting (reanimating) the cantabile melody in the cabaletta, blurring the lines between life and death, love and revenge. Gabriella, written in about a month after a cool reception to Maria, repurposes musical material from the earlier opera, including Maria’s cabaletta from the finale. In the final scene of Gabriella, the titular heroine discovers the still-warm heart of her lover in his funeral urn and sings a reworking of Maria’s cabaletta. In contrast to Maria embodying the supernatural, Gabriella is placed in a dialogue with the supernatural. Supernatural elements resonate throughout the finale with echoes of earlier music in addition to the resurrected cabaletta from Maria. The gothic trope of echoes and repetition becomes a way to understand Donizetti’s self-borrowing outside of a purely utilitarian framework.

Works: Donizetti: Gabriella di Vergy (99-106)

Sources: Donizetti: Maria de Rudenz (99-106)

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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